September 20, 2021 – More than 100 anonymous Afghan journalists have issued an urgent appeal to the international community through Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Entitled “Afghan journalism is threatened with extinction,” the appeal has been signed by a total of 103 journalists (including 20 women) from many different media outlets, who say they reflect “various political opinions and ethnicities.”
Most are still working in Afghanistan (in Kabul or in several provincial cities), some are in hiding because they fear for their safety, and ten have managed to flee the country. All of them, including those who are now abroad, prefer to remain anonymous because they fear reprisals, either against themselves or against family members still in Afghanistan.
Despite their safety concerns, they have decided to sign this message to the international community because they fear that journalism and media pluralism could disappear completely from Afghanistan.
Relayed by RSF, this appeal asks the international community to take urgent action to help keep press freedom alive in Afghanistan. The many incidents in the field in the past ten days, the increasingly flagrant Taliban interference in the media’s work, and the fact that a very large number of women journalists are now finding it impossible to continue working are all grounds for fearing the worst.
To help ensure that journalism can be sustained in Afghanistan, they are seeking guarantees of protection, especially for women journalists who want to keep working, and resources to encourage Afghan media outlets to keep going or to reopen. Assistance must also be made available to those who have fled abroad so that they continue to work as journalists, and those who desperately need refuge must be able to count on the full support of western countries.
Afghanistan was ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index that RSF published in April.
Read the appeal bellow:
“We need international solidarity to prevent the extinction of Afghan journalism”
103 Afghan journalists appeal for help
We are Afghan journalists of various political opinions and ethnicities. Some of us are still able to work. Others are in hiding in Kabul or elsewhere in Afghanistan. And others have already fled abroad or are in the process of leaving. All of us are forced to remain anonymous when making this appeal. We don’t want journalism to become extinct in Afghanistan, as it did from 1996 to 2001. This is a matter of the utmost urgency.
Through Reporters Without Borders (RSF), we are issuing a solemn appeal today to the international institutions to obtain concrete commitments from Afghanistan’s new leaders in the negotiations now under way. Already fewer than one in seven women journalists are still working in Kabul. Despite public undertakings by the Taliban, we see concrete signs of an undeclared general crackdown that includes threats to journalists in the field, intimidation of news media and indirect censorship.
We ask those who want the best for Afghanistan and its people to defend the future of Afghan journalism, regardless of the scenario prevailing in the coming months. We call for a campaign on behalf of press freedom in our country, for the preservation of the gains of the past 20 years, including media independence, pluralism and the protection of journalists. The international institutions have a duty to safeguard respect for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Afghanistan ratified.
We need you to ensure that journalism can be sustained in Afghanistan. This means resources to encourage media outlets to keep going or to reopen. Women journalists and all other female media workers must be able to go back to work and to practice their profession in complete safety. And the tripartite media committee created on 21 August must give guarantees that it will indeed be a mechanism for defending press freedom and not oppressing journalists.
In the short term, we need strong support for evacuations of journalists in danger, by assigning them all necessary diplomatic, consular and financial resources. Journalists who have fled the country must be given facilities so that they continue to work as journalists.
At this historic and also chaotic time, the disappearance of Afghan journalism would be disastrous. Ensuring the safety of media professionals is crucial in order to preserve the fundamental right of all Afghan citizens to receive accurate news and information, a prerequisite for any hope of one day seeing Afghanistan on the road to a lasting peace. Help us to make Afghan journalism survive.
*The Signatories of this appeal launched with RSF’s help remain anonymous for security reasons.